“A hit with a .22 is better than a miss from a .45” – how true is that?

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An interesting confluence occurred last week: I got an email from a fellow asking about the .380ACP as a defensive cartridge, and this rather myopic article on the .22 Magnum rimfire came out in American Rifleman.

As a teacher of defensive shooting it’s my job to make my students as proficient as I possibly can. Part of that job is helping them to pick a gun/cartridge which allows them to make the bad guy go away using the least amount of their resources (time, energy, ammunition, space.) However, there are sometimes external factors to consider: the student’s physical limitations, if any, and perhaps even their lifestyle.

The article referenced is typical of those in the gun world: the .22WMR isn’t as powerful as something bigger (we already know that) and it won’t be as effective as a larger caliber (we already know that too). Sometimes, though, it’s the right choice for certain people. Not frequently, and alternatives should always be explored before settling on it, but it’s always a better choice than a rape whistle and hoping the cops show up in time. Think about the student, not the damn ballistics chart!

There are those people out there who simply cannot handle the recoil of ‘service-grade’ cartridges and guns. They’re few and far between, such limitations often proving to be more psychological than physiological, but there are those few who do need much reduced recoil. A .22WMR, in the hands of a resolute defender who has proven to him/herself that they can wield it effectively, is far preferable to the .45ACP or .357 Magnum that they’re afraid of and can’t handle well (and won’t practice with because it’s too painful.)

Many people carry a .380ACP because it’s available in small and easily concealable guns. Yes, I know (and I preach) that if someone can conceal a .380 then he or she can, with only minor adjustments in their wardrobe, conceal a slightly larger 9mm. The problem with that point of view? Not everyone is an enthusiast, as you and I are. I’d venture to say that just about everyone reading this blog is willing to make, and has made, changes in their lifestyle in order to be able to carry an efficient firearm. We’re the exception!

There are a lot of people out there who simply want to make it possible to survive a deadly attack, recognize the rather rare nature of such incidents, and have concluded that a very small gun which they’ll actually carry is better than a larger gun – even though it’s not a whole lot larger – that will be left at home. While one can argue about their hardware pick, at least they’ve made the correct lifestyle choice: to actually carry!

The usual rejoinder is that there are now 9mm guns the size of .380ACP pistols, and they would “obviously” be the better choice and still fit into their wardrobe and activities. There’s a huge issue with that assumption, however: the micro 9mm guns are brutally difficult to shoot! At least one of them I tested is simply uncontrollable in anything resembling a realistic string of defensive fire, and that’s with a shooter (me) who’s used to heavy recoiling handguns. For someone who’s a novice and is unlikely to practice regularly no matter how much we preach to them? A dangerous, silly choice. For them, the .380 is a better compromise.

“Friends don’t let friends shoot mouseguns” is a phrase I’ve heard bandied about for many years, and while it makes for a macho sound bite it simply doesn’t fit everyone’s reality. Would I prefer that people carry a gun in a caliber that is more likely to result in rapid incapacitation? Yes. Am I so blinded/deluded as to believe that everyone can? No. Will I teach them about their choice, and why they might want to put in the time and effort to be able to choose something more effective? Yes. Will I refuse to teach them because I disagree with their choice? Hell no!

I’d rather focus on what I can do to make them more efficient in the context of defending their lives than bitch and moan because they picked a caliber which I disdain. Along the way I hope that I can convince them to at least consider more effective and efficient options, but I certainly wouldn’t deprive them of the vital information and skill building they can use right now.

-=[ Grant ]=-


About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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